Conservative MPs express frustration at time limit introduced on stamp duty cut

Pleas for stamp duty cuts to be made permanent have been resisted by the Government, as MPs backed proposals aimed at stimulating the housing market.

The Stamp Duty Land Tax (Reduction) Bill cleared the House of Commons after it was given a third reading by 308 votes to 170, majority 138.

But frustration was expressed by Conservative MPs about the changes for England and Northern Ireland, initially introduced on September 23 via a temporary motion, being time limited until March 2025 by the Bill.

Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope
Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope (PA)

Conservative former minister Sir Christopher Chope said: “This whole stamp duty land tax and stamp duty should be abolished altogether.

“The latest figures from the 2021 census show that the dream of a home-owning democracy espoused by generations of Conservative politicians since Margaret Thatcher, and first raised in 1975, isn’t one of this Government’s priorities.”

Treasury minister Victoria Atkins said: “We have no plans to abolish stamp duty land tax … precisely because it raises billions of pounds a year.”

The proposed legislation increases the threshold for not paying stamp duty from properties worth £125,000 to those worth £250,000.

First-time buyers will pay no stamp duty on purchases up to £425,000 and they will be able to access the relief when buying a property costing less than £625,000 rather than the previous £500,000.

The Government has previously said the measures will reduce stamp duty bills for all movers by up to £2,500, with first-time buyers able to access up to £8,750 in relief.

The measures were initially intended to be permanent after being introduced during former prime minister Liz Truss’s mini-budget.

But the subsequent economic turmoil saw new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announce the relief would end on March 31 2025, with MPs supporting an amendment to introduce the time limit.

Treasury minister Victoria Atkins
Treasury minister Victoria Atkins (PA)

Ms Atkins earlier said the UK Government must adopt a “fiscally responsible” approach while it supports businesses and people during challenging economic times.

She said: “We need a balanced approach to support our objectives and that includes helping people get on to and move up the housing ladder – and indeed downsize.”

Intervening, Conservative former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said: “Those of who us voted with enthusiasm for this Bill at second reading on the grounds that it was a permanent change for the benefit of those people wanting to get on to the housing ladder are somewhat discomforted by the fact that Government amendment one makes it merely a temporary measure to assist those who want to get on to the housing ladder – where we want them to be permanently assisted.”

Ms Atkins, in her reply, said the Government has taken some “difficult decisions” in order to ensure “our approach to the economy is fiscally responsible”.

She added: “This is one way in which we hope to stimulate the housing market in the next two years, in the difficult economic circumstances we find, but thereafter we are confident the economy will improve and we will be able to return to the status quo as it was before September 23.”

Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) said: “Congratulations on a reduction in stamp duty – I would rather it was permanent – but I think there are greater considerations, particularly in retirement downsizing which I think ought to be discussed more widely.”

Shadow Treasury minister Abena Oppong-Asare said Labour remained opposed to the stamp duty cut as it is “not the right way to spend public money”, adding the measure is predicted to cost taxpayers £3.2 billion.

She said: “Rather than reversing the stamp duty cut altogether, the amendments the Government has tabled seek only to impose a time limit on the cut.

“Government ministers could have used the breathing space since last October to do the right thing and scrap this stamp duty cut – but instead the Chancellor only proposed a partial U-turn.”

The Bill will undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords at a later date.